How to Snack Smart at Meetings

Sure, coffee can perk you up, but why not try these healthy (or at least healthy-ish) options to snack on that provide protein, energizing iron and more?

How to Snack Smart at Meetings

Every year at the National Confectioners Association’s annual Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, hundreds of companies showcase the latest and greatest in between-meal goodies. We scoured this meeting about snacks to find the best snacks for meetings (got that)? Here’s what we found.

Nosh on nuts

Low-calorie bars might seem appealing, but they’ll leave you hungry and unsatisfied. A handful of nuts, on the other hand, will keep your stomach from rumbling during pin-drop silent presentations. Don’t be afraid of the higher fat content; nuts are rich in heart-healthy, unsaturated fats. In fact, Harvard research shows that people who eat a handful of nuts per day are 20 percent less likely to die—from any cause—compared with non nut-eaters.

You can pack little baggies of nuts at home and throw them in your bag. Or check out the glazed nuts from Sahale Snacks. If you prefer sweet flavors, the Naturally Pomegranate Flavored Pistachios Glazed Mix features roasted pistachios and almonds, dried cherries, pomegranate flavored apples, lemon and black pepper; one ¼-cup serving contains 5 grams of protein and two grams of filling fiber. Prefer savory snacks? The Korean BBQ Almonds Glazed Mix has whole-roasted cashews and almonds, Thai garlic, red chili, sweetened pineapple and toasted sesame seeds; 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber per serving. The flavors are slightly addictive, so try to stop at about one handful a day.

Sahale Snacks glazed nuts are available at retailers nationwide and on Amazon.com; $1.49-1.99 for 1.5 ounces.

Pop some pumpkin seeds

A ¼-cup serving of SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds contains about 8 grams of protein—the equivalent of large egg!—plus 15 percent of your daily iron needs. “Iron helps deliver oxygen to your cells, so it's an important energy-enhancing nutrient,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of "The Superfood Swap: The Four Week Plan to Eat What You Crave Without The C.R.A.P." and nutritionist for the Chicago Cubs. Bonus: No shells to wrangle.

There are actually two forms of iron: heme, found in animal foods (meat, for instance), and non-heme, found in plant foods like leafy greens, beans and seeds. It's easier for the body to utilize heme iron than non-heme, so to increase absorption, pair non-heme iron-containing foods, like pumpkin seeds, with foods that are rich in vitamin C, like citrus fruits or peppers strips, Jackson Blatner suggests.

Try the Organic Pink Himalayan Sea Salt or Organic Garlicky Dill flavors, $4.79 for 4 ounces, or Cinnamon & Sugar or Tomato Italiano flavors, $4.79 for 5 ounces, at your local grocery store or Whole Foods Market.

Beans: The better-for-you snack

Think beans belong at the salad bar? They actually make for a tasty, portable snack. More companies are roasting garbanzo beans until they turn crunchy, seasoning them with spices and packaging them for healthy on-the-go munching. Beans are rich in fiber which, besides helping you stay full, can stabilize blood sugar levels (so you don’t feel the urge to run to the vending machine) and lower colorectal cancer risk. Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, count as a plant-based protein, making them a smart option for vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians or anyone looking to cut back on their meat intake.

Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas come in a bevy of flavors, including sea salt, falafel, chipotle and wasabi, all of which pack an impressive 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein into each ¼-cup serving. (For comparison, two slices of oven-roasted chicken breast has 7 grams of protein and zero fiber.)

$3.99- $4.99 per 4.15- to 6-ounce package, available at your local grocery store or Whole Foods Market.

Bonus: If sitting through too many meetings has caused you to pack on a few pounds, chickpeas may help. A recent review conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research found that a daily serving of chickpeas, beans or lentils may help people lose a modest amount of weight without even reducing calories.

Superfood chips

Jicachips are baked, not fried, and come from the jicama, sometimes called “the Mexican potato.” This root veggie gets its mild sweetness from a starchy substance called inulin. Inulin is actually a prebiotic, meaning it acts as food for probiotics, the healthy bacteria found in fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, miso and more. A 25-chip serving of clocks in at 100 calories, with 5 grams of fiber, less than 2 grams of fat. Flavors include Sea Salt, Smoked BBQ, White Cheddar, Chili Lime, Cinnamon Sugar, and Spicy Soy Ginger.

$2.29 per 0.9-ounce bag on ThriveMarket.com. Also available at Whole Foods Market or via Amazon Prime.

Get going with gum

Research has shown that chewing gum helps people stay alert. Most of the big-name brands of gum, though, are made from base that contains some of the same chemicals used to make plastic, along with a preservative called BHT. Sugar-free gums contain artificial sweeteners. A more wholesome choice: Simply Gum, which contains more recognizable ingredients like natural chicle, a kind of tree sap. The flavors are grown-up, too: The Boost flavor, for instance, boasts organic raw cane sugar, lemongrass oil, turmeric extract and cayenne pepper.

For an extra boost, pick the mint flavor; peppermint stimulates the area of the brain responsible for mental arousal, leaving you more focused, says Alan R. Hirsch MD, director of The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Or go for the Coffee flavor—Hirsch says that, in experienced coffee drinkers, the mere smell of coffee can have a stimulating, Pavlovian-type of effect. And the Fennel Licorice flavor is great for slaying coffee breath.

A pack of Simply Gum retails for $2.99 in retailers like Whole Foods Market and Kroger.

Try amped up chocolate

Good Day Chocolate Energy Supplements contain 20 mg of caffeine per piece; in comparison, a medium green tea has about 40 mg. The caffeine is actually sourced from green tea itself, and the orange candy-esque coating of these fair-trade dark chocolates get its coloring from fruits and veggies. Pop a few when you feel yourself drifting off and the coffee station is seemingly miles away.

A small box containing eight pieces costs $3.29. They are nationally available at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Kroger and at GoodDayChocolate.com